Last week I took a call from BB asking if I’d like to become a regular columnist, and I thought, ’At last! I’ve found a new audience for my ever-rising enthusiasm for all things baking.’ But where to start? My five-minute verbal stream, spilling out like dough on the move, covered some of the issues of the moment: my relief at getting five stars at our third shop in the EHO’s ’Scores on the Doors’ scheme; and a recently revived Lardy cake recipe, generously shared with me by Ro Richards, who although in his 90s, spent a day with me in the bakery, passing on the recipe and, vitally, his time-honoured method. Then there’s my work with Theo Guy at Bristol City college to introduce a Craft Bakery Modern Apprenticeship scheme; the reaction of our customers to the foreign taste of Oil of Cassia in our proper Easter biscuits.
Having signed a 40-year rolling contract to write this column(!), I figured, why not start with an unashamed plug for a new book to which I’ve written the foreword: Baking Bread with Children by Warren Lee Cohen (Hawthorn Press). Check it out for top-drawer inspiration.
So, why do I think it’s important that we bake with children? Well, my observation is that anyone who baked as a child always remembers it in a very positive way (mentally insert 1950s knitting pattern image of baking with mother). Those young helpers grow up, and if they don’t go on to actually become bakers, they’re surely more likely to part with their disposable income on our fancies. Is this a half-baked idea?
My visits to bake at local schools have proved otherwise. As part of our long-term strategy to increase footfall, we need to let these youngsters glimpse the wonders and joys of our ancient craft; they’re the customers and bakers of the future.
Last week, while collecting wood for my oven, I bumped into a neighbour, who was supervising a group of disaffected teenagers, on a camp out. The biggest of the kids was effin’ and jeffin’, because someone had stolen his fags. He sauntered up to me and demanded, "You Hobbs?..... I ****in’ love your sun-dried tomato bread!"
Bread is a universal language. We need it and it’s ace to be reminded that it’s even possible to love it.
See you at the Baking Industry Exhibition at the NEC. I’ll be wearing a badge reading Hobbs House Bakery and on the blag for scalpels. If you have any childhood memories of baking you’d like to share, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org